Ships as Firefly Game Boosters: Considering Jetwash, Artful Dodger, and Esmeralda
Having discovered a couple different ships in the Pirates & Bounty Hunters Expansion of Firefly: The Game, my curiosity was piqued in differently-styled ships from the regular ships in the base game. This interest led my brother-in-law and me to create a couple of new ships for the game. While one could create other such ships, I was curious to experience which other ships have been created for the game, so I decided to buy the Artful Dodger, Esmeralda, and Jetwash game expansions.
The Artful Dodger game booster is simply a new ship card and drive core, along with colorfully-matching teal game piece and die. The Artful Dodger has 7 maximum crew instead of the typical 6, but only 6 spaces in its cargo hold. It has the typical four spaces of a stash, three slots for ship upgrades, and three active jobs. It also comes with a drive core card, which lists that it has a range of 6 when full burn initiated. In playing with Artful Dodger, it is not much of a handicap to give up two storage spaces for an extra crew member; when one adds in the extra space for a fuel burn of 6, it reveals itself to be a super-charged ship.
The other two game boosters are “Coachworks” game boosters. According to the instructions that come with them, “Each Coachworks expansion adds additional playable ships to Firefly: The Game.” Both of these two ships are Series IV Fireflies. According to the instructions, “The Series IV Firefly represents the current generation of Firefly ship design. Series IV ships have a larger cargo hold, better drive core, and a secured fuel exchange system, compared to their predecessors. The Series IV Firefly sacrifices flexibility for optimization.” Furthermore, “Series IV Fireflies have 6 stash spaces for Fuel Tokens. You may only place Fuel Tokens in those 6 spaces, not Part Tokens.”
Similar to the Artful Dodger game booster, Esmeralda comes with a plastic ship for the board, which is purple, as is the game die that comes with it, and the ship “card”, which has some different features from the standard Firefly class ship. The Esmeralda, according to the accompanying instructions, “is a new Series IV Firefly with a unique special rule and is equipped with two starting Ship Upgrades: ‘Caravan Pods’ and ‘Full Mess Deck’.”. It has a huge cargo hold of twelve and, interestingly, a stash for six fuel (and fuel only). This additional cargo hold and stash, however, comes with a price: there is only room on-board for a crew of five and only two slots for ship upgrades. Also, the ship has a special rule: “fugitives on board cannot be seized by the Alliance.” Also, the drive core for Esmeralda has the following special condition: “When initiating a Full Burn, spend 1 additional Fuel to increase your Max Range by 2 this turn.” The Esmeralda has, thus far, in gameplay that I have experienced, held up as a sturdy ship, particularly the “Caravan Pods” upgrade, since it not only allows two extra passengers/fugitives on-board, but also an extra crew member, which is helpful.
However, in addition to these, this game booster comes with some extra goodies: more game tokens (4 goal/warrant issueds, 8 parts, 7 fuels, 5 fugitive/passengers, 10 cargo/contrabands, 4 disgruntleds, and 1 haven), one new Set-Up Card, one new Story card (both of which are designed to play a faster game of Firefly), 3 ship upgrades in Persephone (2 Caravan Pods ($400) (which may only hold 2 passengers/fugitives, but also adds +1 to the ship’s maximum crew – this is a great card(!)) and 1 Full Mess Deck ($400) (which states “During your Fly Action, you may discard a Cargo or Contraband to remove Disgruntled from all your Crew.”)), and 2 ship upgrades for this Series IV Firefly (one Caravan Pod and one Full Mess Deck). However, for these two ship upgrades, according to the instructions, “if you select a ship with Starting Ship Upgrades, you must pay the costs listed on the Ship Upgrade Cards ($800 total for the Esmeralda).”
Having played the “Down and Out” story card, I will say that it is certainly interesting, since “In this game, players do not have their own hand of Job Cards. Deal Actions may only be used to buy from or sell to Contacts” and “There are no Contact Discard Piles. Any time you would normally discard a Job, remove it from the game instead.” It is a very interesting way to play, especially since it essentially removes the part of the game where players would fly to deal with contacts, since “You may Work any face up Job on the Contact decks. When you start Working a Job, claim it and place the Job in your Active Job area, as normal.” This story card certainly speeds up the game, especially along with the way to win it: “The first player to become Solid with 5 different Contacts wins the game.”
Just like Esmeralda, the Jetwash comes with two ship upgrades: a Decoy Nav Sat Cluster ($400) (“Discard at the start of a Move Action to treat all Nav Cards that would normally move a Reaver or Alliance Ship as a “Big Black” card instead.”) and Xùnsù Emergency Ram Jets ($600) (“Discard and use an Action to initiate a Full Burn. May be used in addition to a standard Move Action.”), along with a full burn of 5, with the option of spending an extra fuel for a total full burn of up to 7 spaces. Thus far, in gameplay that I have seen, the ship upgrades that come with this ship are not as good as that of the Esmeralda. For one, the player starts out with 200 less credits, on account of the more expensive ship upgrade. However, also, they are simply discard ship upgrades, whereas the Esmeralda’s ship upgrades are not; so you only get to use them once, whereas, for instance, the “Caravan Pods” of the Esmeralda (extra crew and two passenger/fugitives) remain for the whole game (or as long as one would like to keep the ship upgrade). However, it does have a nice special rule of Emergency Nav Assist: “Discard a part to count as pilot”, which is helpful if one does not already have a pilot (of course, if one has a pilot, this is useless). So, the Jetwash is inferior to the Esmeralda and it does not seem to be worth the loss of 1000 credits at the outset of the game.
In addition to the ship in the Jetwash game booster, there is a new Set-up card and a new Story card, both for experienced players (The Browncoat Way “is for experienced Captains who want to add another layer of challenge and decision-making to their games. Choosing a more expensive ship will mean you start with fewer credits – but your ship is one thing you can’t change later!” and Where the Wind Takes Us “introduces a new system for placing Goal Tokens randomly throughout the ‘Verse. Canny Captains will need to find Jobs that take them to Planets with Goal Tokens. It will take both luck and skill to be the first Captain to collect 3 Goal Tokens.”) . Having played Where the Wind Takes Us, I will say that it is interesting and could either be a long game or a really quick game. In this story, “Each player draws three Jobs from a Contact Deck of their choice and places a Goal token at the Jobs’ Drop-Off/Target/Destination Sectors. … Return all the Jobs to their Contact Decks and reshuffle the decks. Do NOT deal Starting Jobs.” Then, “Any time a player successfully completes any Job in a Sector with a Goal Token, they may claim that Goal Token.” Once one completes three goal tokens, they win. Both times I played this story, the winner won because they completed jobs using cards from the Breakin’ Atmo game expansion, in which eight of the job cards (three from Amnon Duul and five from Harken) simply require the player to travel to a planet…and get paid. I think the first game took a half-hour(!), since cards from this game booster were used. Nevertheless, it could also take a long time, as it requires jobs to be completed on these particular planets.
Also, the two ship upgrades that came with the Jetwash are available in Space Bazaar. Furthermore, there is also “a new version of Zoë, as a Leader” which “is included in this set. If Zoë is selected by a player during the “Choose Ship & Leaders” stage of Set-Up, remove the Zoë Crew Card from the Silverhold Supply Deck.” However, if her leader card is not selected, then her crew card can remain in Silverhold.
In sum, Artful Dodger is a powerful ship, which is awesome, Esmeralda is a good ship, especially with its Caravan Pods ship upgrade, while Jetwash is not that good of a ship. One of the biggest highlights of these game boosters are also the new story and set-up cards, although the new ship upgrades in Persephone can be helpful, as well.